Compressed Earth Block Basics

What is a Compressed Earth Block?

Compressed Earth Block, Earth Block, or CEB is a construction material made from the dirt beneath your feet to build a wide variety of structures including homes, schools, churches, clinics, stores, barricades and fortifications.

Compressed Earth Blocks are made by compressing a soil and 4 -8 % Portland cement (used as a stabilizer) in a hydraulic press. These blocks can be used to build with after curing for 7 days. They reach full strength and become water resistant after a 28-day cure period.

Why should I build with Compressed Earth Block?

There are numerous reasons to build with Earth Block. In addition to the fact that an estimated 2 billion or 30% of the earth’s population live in earthen structures, Earth Block Structures:

  1. Creates superior indoor environments
    • Earth Block structures are warm, solid, and quiet. It has been described as having a warm comfortable blanket wrapped around you.
  2. Environmentally sound
    • Earth Block structures can use up to 20 to 30% less energy to heat and cool than concrete block or wood frame structures.
    • Dirt is a renewable resource that is plentiful.
    • Earth Blocks take very little energy to make compared to the extreme heat necessary to make cement, the firing process required to make bricks, and the deforestation required to build with wood.
    • Earth Block walls are sound proof, fire proof, bullet proof, bug proof, and mold proof.
  3. Use materials available locally
    • Materials to make earth blocks are plentiful and can often be found locally reducing transportation costs and environmental impact. Earth blocks can often be made at the construction site which eliminates the need to transport the materials required to build the walls.
  4. Non-Toxic
    • Since the blocks are made from natural materials they do not out-gas any toxic chemicals like most conventional building components.
  5. Long lasting
  6. Earthen homes have been around for thousands of years. Earth Blocks will last for centuries. Average life of a wood frame building is 49 years.

Compressed Earth Block Construction

What can I build with Compressed Earth Block? CEB’s can be used in place of conventional masonry products in many types of applications including:

  • Dwellings – from low cost to upscale
  • Public buildings, including schools, churches, clinics, etc.
  • Commercial and industrial buildings
  • Military applications such as barricades, fortifications, and security walls
  • Walls and linings for canals, dams, drains, and erosion protection
  • Storage facilities for waste and toxic materials
  • Mining applications
  • Disaster relief

Is it difficult to build with CEB’s?

No. The Compressed Earth Block designed by Dwell Earth made by the Vermeer BP 714 is called the V Lock Block. The V Lock Block is uniform in all three dimensions. It has a unique interlocking design which allows it to be dry stacked or motared and does not require traditional labor intensive skill associated with masonary construction. If requested, the blocks may be bound together with a thin slurry made from same material as the blocks. Like substances bond making the wall a monolithic structure.

All of these features make for a much more economical wall system. Walls can be built, much faster than conventional masonry, with unskilled labor while under the supervision of someone who is familiar with basic construction techniques.

What size is a V Lock Block?

A V Lock Block (VLB) is 17cm X 35 cm X 10 cm (7” X 14” X 4”)

(1 V Lock Block = .39 sq ft (or) .036 sq M)

(1 sq ft of wall requires 2.2 Blocks)

(1 sq M of wall requires 27.7 Blocks)

A wall 2.4 meters (8 feet) high and 9.1 meters (30 feet) long would take approximately 619 V Lock Earth Blocks.

What type of foundation is required?

A Compressed Earth Block wall requires at least 25 cm (10”) thick and 33% wider than the wall width.

How tall can an Earth Block building be?

Multiple story Earth Block structures can be made but design considerations need to be taken to accommodate local building requirements and variations.

How much soil is required?

A V Lock Block weighs approximately 22 – 25 lbs. A cubic yard of soil weighs approximately 2,600 lbs. So you can make approximately 118 – 104 V Lock Blocks per yard of soil. A 30 square meter structure would require approximately 12 yards of soil to construct.

The voids in the V Lock Blocks reduce the required soil by 30% compared to other solid Compressed Earth Blocks.

How do I finish the surface of an Earth Block wall?

Compressed Earth Block walls can be painted using cementious paint or clear coat. Both inner and outer walls can also be covered with plaster, using a wire lathe which has the additional benefit of adding strength to the wall system. There are also several natural plastering methods that can be applied.

Can a Compressed Earth Block wall stand up to seismic activity?

Shake table tests have shown Compressed Earth Block walls built with steel reinforcements offer superior seismic performance. Additionally, V Lock Blocks were designed so vertical and horizontal reinforcement can be integrated into the wall system design essentially creating a steel basket within the wall system.

Is a Compressed Earth Block wall expensive to build?

No. The Compressed Earth Block designed by Dwell Earth that is produced by the BP 714 is called the V Lock Block. The V Lock Block is uniform in all three dimensions. It has a unique interlocking design which allows it to be dry stacked or mortared and does not require traditional labor intensive skill associated with masonry construction. We recommend, the blocks may be bound together with a thin slurry made from same material as the blocks.

These features make for a much more economical wall system. Walls can be built, much faster than conventional masonry, with unskilled labor while under the supervision of someone who is familiar with basic construction techniques.

EARTH BLOX BP714 Earth Block Machine

Is the BP714 reliable?

Yes. Dwell Earth teamed up with Vermeer to bring the BP714 to market. It is built to Vermeer’s manufacturing standards and designed for use even in the most remote parts of the globe. The machine is built with simple yet reliable hydraulic controls. It does not have any complicated electronic circuitry and has a hand crank start diesel engine. The EARTH BLOX BP714 is still made in Pella, IA but is no longer manufactured by Vermeer. Midwest Engineering Works has now taken on the manufacturing rights and has greatly improved the manufacturing process for the BP714.

What makes the BP714 unique?

The BP714 Compressed Earth Block Machine was designed designed in partnership with Vermeer. We created an exclusive compression manifold that delivers consistent compression across all surface areas. This results in the production of blocks that are both uniform in dimension and density. Testing results have proven the V Block Block exhibit superior strengths and durability when compared to conventional Compressed Earth Blocks and can exceed US cement block strength standards.

The BP714 has hydraulic rams that perform two purposes. First they compress the Earth Block to uniform dimension. Second they create cavities that allow area for seismic reinforcement, roof tie-downs, electrical conduit, and other utilities. The second compression provides for uniform density of each block.

Is the BP714 complicated to operate?

No. The machine has three simple controls that only require a few hours of instruction to master and maximize production.

What is the production capacity of the BP714?

Provided there is a continuous supply of material the BP714 will produce +/- 200 blocks per hour (78 sq ft (or) 7.2 sq M) The machine and crew can produce up to 1,600 in an eight hour work day (624 sq ft (or) 57.6 sq M)

Is a Compressed Earth Block wall expensive to build?

No. You can save up to 30% compared to traditional masonry construction. This is achieved by using readily available materials (soil) and reduced labor costs for wall construction. You also have the benefit of a superior quality structure with far less environmental impact.

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